About Physical Review Letters

Physical Review Letters (PRL) is the world’s premier physics letter journal. It publishes short, high quality reports of significant and notable results in the full arc of fundamental and interdisciplinary physics research. PRL provides readers with the most influential developments and transformative ideas in physics with the goal of moving physics forward. We are the most cited physics journal — every two minutes someone cites a PRL. Authors gain high visibility, rapid publication, and broad dissemination of their work.

To maintain its mission of providing high-profile publication of important results in all areas of physics, PRL maintains strict acceptance criteria. In addition to being scientifically valid, published Letters must meet our criteria of impact, innovation, and interest by doing at least one of the following:

  1. Open a new area of research, or new avenues of research within an established area, and therefore significantly influence the research of others.
  2. Solve, or make essential steps towards solving, a critical outstanding problem.
  3. If presenting a new technique, or methodology, it should play a pivotal role in future physics research, and make apparent its immediate consequences for physicists.
  4. In rare instances a Letter may also be of unusual intrinsic interest to our broad audience.

Like all American Physical Society (APS) Physical Review journals, PRL is community driven and operated by physicists. This means that its mission, scope, and standards are ultimately established by the needs of our community, rather than commercial interests. PRL has a strong international scope with the majority of published articles, and active referees, originating from outside the United States of America.

Journal Staff and Editorial Board

Our editors are primarily full-time staff with PhDs and research experience in physics, all of whom have previously held appointments at industrial, or academic institutions around the world. The editorial staff are dedicated to managing a fair, rigorous, and unbiased review process. All editorial decisions are based on PRL acceptance criteria, with no consideration of country of origin, institutional affiliations, or funding sources.

Physical Review Letters has an Editorial Board comprised of active and distinguished physicists within our community. These Divisional Associate Editors (DAEs) are appointed by the Editor in Chief, after recommendation by the editors, and in consultation with the respective APS divisions. DAEs are typically appointed for three-year terms, and provide advice to our editors throughout the review process, most notably guidance in the handling of formal appeals.


In addition to their oversight of the peer-review process, PRL editors are intimately involved with highlighting outstanding Letters. Papers that are judged to be particularly important, interesting, and well written are chosen as Editors’ Suggestions. These Suggestions are intended as a way to direct readers to Letters that lead them beyond their usual interests, into another area of research. Suggestions are downloaded and cited about twice as often as other Letters, and are more frequently covered in the popular press. The editors of PRL work closely with the staff of Physics, which provides daily online-only news and commentary about selected APS journal papers, to help promote particularly important, and extraordinary results.

For rare Letters of apparent great importance, we may take additional steps, such as writing an accompanying Editorial (see for example “Signals from the Dawn of Time?”) or working with Physics to summarize the best of the work resulting from such a discovery (see, for example, “Focus: Theorists Weigh in on BICEP2”).


Physical Review Letters covers all areas of applied, fundamental, and interdisciplinary physics research. The Letters are grouped into topical sections devoted to the following areas:

  • General physics, which includes statistical and quantum mechanics and quantum information.
  • Gravitation, astrophysics, and cosmology.
  • Elementary particles and fields.
  • Nuclear physics.
  • Atomic, molecular, and optical physics.
  • Nonlinear dynamics, fluid dynamics, and classical optics.
  • Plasma and beam physics.
  • Condensed matter physics.
  • Polymers, soft matter, biological, and interdisciplinary physics, including networks.


The American Physical Society (APS) was founded on May 20th, 1899, when 36 physicists gathered at Columbia University with that aim. They proclaimed the mission of the new Society to be "to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics". This has since been the goal of the APS through scientific meetings and journal publication, as well as other activities.

Physical Review Letters was established in the late 1950’s when the then Editor, Sam Goudsmit, decided to collect the Letters to the Editor of Physical Review into a new standalone journal. Volume 1, Issue 1 of the journal was published on July 1, 1958. In our 56 year history PRL has published numerous seminal, and long-lived contributions to physics. Many of these milestone letters report work, which was later recognized with a Nobel prize for one or more of the authors. Further details can be found on the PRL timeline.

Editorial and Publishing Policies

Full details about author and referee services and the APS journals policies and practices can be found here. All Physical Review journals share a number of common policies including:

Details on the Physical Review Letters specific editorial policies and practices can be found here.

Journal Metrics

The total number of citations to PRL articles in 2016 was 427,669. This works out to roughly one citation every eighty seconds.

PRL's 2016 impact factor is 8.462, according to the 2016 Journal Citation Reports Science Edition (Thomson Reuters, 2017). The 2016 impact factor represents the average number of citations received in 2016 for papers published in 2014 and 2015. A more detailed explanation of impact factors can be found on the Thomson Reuters web site. The 2016 5-year impact factor, the average number of times articles published in 2011-2015 have been cited in 2016, is 7.805, and the cited half-life, the median age of articles cited in 2016, is 9.8 years. PRL's 2016 immediacy index, the average number of citations in 2016 to papers published in that year, was 2.923.

PRL is ranked first among physics and mathematics journals by Google Scholar using their five-year h-index metrics, and first among physics journals with an Eigenfactor of 0.820280.

The number of articles published in PRL in 2016 was 2,478, with a total of 13,121 pages.

ISSN and Article Numbers

The international standard serial numbers (ISSN) for Physical Review Letters are 0031-9007 (print), 1079-7114 (online), 1092-0145 (CD-Rom).

PRL is published electronically one article at a time within weekly issues. Articles are identified by volume number and a six-digit article number (instead of volume and page number), for example, Phys. Rev. Lett. 87, 015702 (2001). This format allows articles to be fully citable as soon as they are published electronically, while maintaining the same identifier for both the electronic and print version. More information.


The subscription rates for Physical Review Letters can be found here for APS Members and Institutional Subscriptions. CD-ROMs are available with a paid journal subscription.

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